If you're looking for relief from pelvic pain, you may need to know what causes adenomyosis. After all, this is a hard-to-diagnose condition, but it could be the cause of your pain. Here's the story.
Adenomyosis is a condition that causes many symptoms—like pelvic pain, bloating, an enlarged uterus, and heavy bleeding—that mimic fibroid symptoms. This condition is the result of endometrial cells (from the uterine inner lining) that migrate into the middle, muscular wall of the uterus, the myometrium, where they stay put. The newly lodged cells then increase the mass of your uterus. And all of these factors trigger symptoms that are also similar to endometriosis. (But adenomyosis and endometriosis are two very different conditions.)
Unfortunately, we still don’t understand the exact cause of this condition, although different theories exist. One suggests that it’s caused by genetic changes in endometrial cells. Another proposes that, in fact, cells inside your myometrium actually convert into endometrial cells.
In some cases, you may develop adenomyosis if the barrier between your uterus and your endometrial lining sustains damage. You could also develop adenomyosis after sustaining damage to your uterine muscle. (That could happen during a Caesarean section. Or it could be the result of myomectomy surgery to remove fibroids. For that reason, choosing non-surgical fibroid treatments such as UFE may be a safer choice. Especially if you've had a c-section before.)
We also believe that hormones like estrogen trigger the condition since its symptoms go away after menopause. Female levels of estrogen go down in the first year after menopause and the symptoms dissipate as well. And, regardless of the causes, we know that about 1 in 10 women will be affected by this condition.
In the past, adenomyosis was diagnosed after a hysterectomy, when doctors were able to examine the tissue of the removed uterus. Today, the diagnostic process has improved, allowing for detection without this surgery. However, the diagnostic process still isn't perfect.
First, many women wait years to receive an adenomyosis diagnosis symptoms mimic those of other conditions. And because, too often, menstrual symptoms are 'normalized,' that makes it harder for women to self-advocate, meaning they don't get the diagnosis they need. However, when you speak up and begin to seek a diagnosis, you can sometimes detect adenomyosis with a pelvic ultrasound scan. Still, it can be difficult to spot lodged cells on an ultrasound, so an MRI is often needed for confirmation. Often, adenomyosis is detected while your doctor is screening for fibroid tumors.
While a good portion of women—as many as 30%--won’t experience any symptoms, women with adenomyosis typically experience:
The only way to cure this condition is to undergo a hysterectomy. For many women, this will be too drastic an option—especially since we now know that hysterectomies leave women at risk for cardiac and metabolic problems.
So, while we can’t stop the problem without removing your uterus, we can help manage symptoms with less invasive treatment options. The best option for you will depend on the severity of your symptoms and your overall health:
Are you living with adenomyosis and need pain relief? Click here to request an appointment with our Houston area specialists today. We are here to help you get back to a pain-free life!
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